Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Countries & Regions: France, Italy
Studio: British Film Institute
Region: Region 2
Released: 17 September 2001
Cat No: BFIVD509
Screen ratio 1:1.66
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Following ’The Decameron’ and ’The Canterbury Tales’, Pier Paolo Pasolini completed his Trilogy of Life series with this adaptation of a... Read More
Yet another film to rank up with Oedipus Rex, The Decameron & The Canterbury Tales. But this time in colour. Like most of his previous films his feeling for atmosphere once again draws us back into the past. Another masterpiece that immerses us in the clear beauty of its locations. Nineto Davoli and Franco Citti are included in the cast.
Known collectively as the ‘Trilogy of Life’, Pasolini’s interpretations of The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974) are his attempt to forge an artistic unity between modern cinema, medieval art and the writings of Giovanni Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer and the anonymous author behind the fables of Scheherazade.
The director himself played Giotto and Chaucer in the first two films, and he drew variously on pre-Renaissance religious painting, the dystopias of Bosch and Brueghel and Islamic art to enhance their authenticity. Yet there’s no denying that Pasolini romanticised the Middle Ages in his films. However, this approach wasn’t inspired by any naive optimism that humanity could recapture a pre-industrial innocence. Instead, it reflected his long-held Marxist view (already expressed in his 1964 masterpiece The Gospel According to Matthew) that the supposed freedoms and ideologies of capitalist society were not all that different from the strictures and superstitions of more unenlightened and oppressive eras. Consequently, it’s easy to see the maker of the savagely cynical Pigsty (1969) in what many have mistaken for bawdy romps that marked a hiatus in Pasolini’s one-man assault on the bourgeoisie.
Nevertheless, what strikes many coming to the Trilogy for the first time are the graphic depictions of the human body. Pasolini was not jumping on the permissive bandwagon however. He wanted to celebrate the primitive functions and carnal desires of the flesh that had been deemed pornographic by the prudish, hypocritical forces of the ruling elite and the Catholic Church. He wanted to reclaim sex from those who had sanitised it for film and television while shamelessly exploiting it for consumerist advertising. It was this failure – made manifest by the slew of copycat softcore comedies that sought to cash in on the series’ commercial success – that prompted Pasolini to disown it, lamenting that ‘even if I wished to continue to make films like the Trilogy of Life, I would be unable to do so because I now hate the body and the sexual organs’. Indeed, it was this anger, disillusion and disgust that led him to make his most scurrilous denunciation of the Italian psyche, Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975).